Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1089

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Feature

Livvi Franc: Franc exchange

Livvi Franc @bluesandsoul.com
Livvi Franc @bluesandsoul.com Livvi Franc @bluesandsoul.com Livvi Franc @bluesandsoul.com Livvi Franc @bluesandsoul.com

Having already topped the US Dance chart, UK-born, Barbados-bred singer/songwriter Livvi Franc is now hoping for similar success in Britain with her melodically-pounding âfemale empowermentâ anthem âNow Iâm That Bitchâ.

Produced by U.S. urban hit-maker Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse/Nas), the track - which features currently-hot Miami rapper Pitbull - also precedes the early 2010 launch of Livviâs diverse, self-titled debut album.

Boasting the looks (and legs!) of a supermodel, a bubbly and articulate Ms. Franc is more than happy to give a very receptive Pete Lewis the low-down on her irresistibly-punchy new single over Friday afternoon drinks at Sony Musicâs busy Kensington HQ.

âWell, I WROTE âNow Iâm That Bitchâ, and so itâs very personal for me - because it really represents who I amâ, begins the chatty, 21-year-old Caribbean songstress assertively: âI mean, everyone has different meanings for the word âbitchâ. And for me I really wanted to reclaim it and make it something empowering - as in âBabe In Total Control of Herselfâ! You know, itâs all about being in control and knowing what you want. And the story behind the song relates to when I was younger, and I was a lot quieter and less confident. Basically back then, when I had a crush on a guy, theyâd usually just ignore me and pass me by. Whereas now that Iâm older, and gaining confidence and learning from my experiences, those same guys are coming back to me, wanting to talk to me, wanting to have a date⦠And so Iâm like (to quote a line in the song) âYou were too fly THEN, so fly away NOW!â!â

Indeed, Livvi has also co-penned most of the tracks on her aforementioned forthcoming debut LP: âYes, lyrically Iâve written most of the album, and so Iâm really proud of thatâ, she gushes: âIâve been recording in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and London with several big-name producers - like Red One, whoâs produced the second single âAutomaticâ and has done lots of stuff with Lady GaGa. Then Iâve also worked with people like Greg Kurstin - who did Lily Allenâs last album - and âJ.R.â Rotem (Rihanna/Sean Kingston), who really embraced my Caribbean background. You know, because Iâve grown up listening to so many different styles, Iâm very limitless when it comes to music. Like living in Barbados, I heard the Caribbean styles like dancehall, soca and calypso. Then, with me growing up spending my summers in the UK, Iâd hear the dance and more retro-type sounds. While being in the US more recently, Iâve heard the more commercial pop stuff. So my album is basically like a fusion of all those three - and a perfect representation of who I am.â

Born Olivia Charlotte Waithe, Livvi interestingly spent the first five years of her life in her English mumâs hometown of Harrogate, North Yorkshire before - at five - moving with her family to her fatherâs homeland of Barbados, after her parents decided she and her elder sister should fully experience their Barbadian heritage. Something that Livvi feel plays an important role in her music today: âYeah, Caribbean music is real feel-good music!â, she smiles: âYou know, in Barbados we have our carnivals - plus we have a festival called Crop Over, which is the time when everyone records funny, silly calypso songs that just make you wanna dance. And itâs definitely that aspect of Caribbean music that Iâve taken and put into my songs Because itâs really important to me to have music that makes people feel good and makes them happy when theyâre sad. Which is definitely the effect soca music and calypso music have always had on ME.â

Meanwhile, from an industry standpoint, itâs surely no coincidence that Livvi now becomes the third young pop/R&B princess to have emerged from Barbados in recent years, following the international success of fellow islanders Rihanna and Shontelle: âYeah, those constant comparisons with Rihanna in particular are no real surprise to meâ, she replies with a shrug: âYou know, weâre both from Barbados, weâre both in the same music genre... Though I do think people will compare less when they hear more of my music, and get to know me better as an artist through my albumâ

âI mean, I actually think itâs great that there are now three Barbadian female artists happening internationally, and that the music worldâs eyes are now directed towards a tiny island that - when you look at it on the world map - is just like a tiny little dot!â, she adds with pride: âYou know, itâs really opened the door for a lot of OTHER Barbadian talents who - seeing how Rihanna, Shontelle and I have all come out - are now like âOK, so itâs NOT impossible!â!... Whereas before the idea of becoming a superstar recording artist when you came from Barbados was something not very tangible. So yeah, Iâm really happy that Iâve contributed to allowing people to realise their dream.â

Not that attaining her current record-deal with Sony Musicâs Jive label was exactly an overnight success-story for Livvi - who actually penned her first song at 11 before, at 15, taking up the guitar: âWhat happened was, my friend used to baby-sit for a woman named Kerrie Thomas whoâd worked in music in Barbadosâ, she recalls clearly: âSo I met her, played a cassette tape of some of my songs... And, after listening to it once, she said sheâd love to work with me! So she became my manager; I recorded a demo with some local producers in Barbados while I was still in school... Then the next step was to record some more songs in Miami, where I met my OTHER manager. Then from there I went to New York, and ended up having meetings with about five or six label-heads.â

âYou know, Iâd just go in the office and stand there singing a cappella for themâ, she continues: âAnd some of them turned me down; some of them were like âOh, weâre not sureâ⦠But the one that showed the most interest was Jive Records, which was always one of my top picks. So I ended up having about three or four different meetings with them. Then finally I met the CEO, Barry Weiss, and performed for him - and that same evening we finally found out that they were offering me a deal... But yeah, overall it was hard. It was a lotta work, and it definitely wasnât something that happened overnight!â

The digital single âNow Iâm That Bitchâ is out now through Jive/Zomba Label Group
Words PETE LEWIS

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